Flamboyant former hacker to settle in NZ

By David Fisher

Kim Dotcom wants to buy a big property at Coatesville, Auckland. Photo / Jason Dorday
Kim Dotcom wants to buy a big property at Coatesville, Auckland. Photo / Jason Dorday

Meet our newest richlister - a multi-millionaire businessman who was once one of the world's most "flamboyant" computer hackers.

Kim Dotcom has signalled his intention to live in New Zealand and has applied for official approval to buy one of the most expensive homes in the country.

The German-born businessman is a controversial figure with a colourful history of fast cars, computers and women.

He came to prominence a decade ago with a string of online stunts followed by self-promotion - including photos with expensive sports cars and a Playboy bunny.

The 37-year-old, who said he was one of the 10 richest people in New Zealand, outlined his plans in an exclusive online interview with the Herald on Sunday.

He said residency allowed him, his wife Mona and their children to live in a country that would become a "rare paradise on earth".

Dotcom was granted residency last year.

And he has made an impact since then, investing funds, creating jobs, sponsoring a major fireworks display and making a "large contribution to the Canterbury earthquake relief fund", according to Immigration New Zealand.

Dotcom's employees included Grant McKavanagh, now chief executive of New Zealand Football.

McKavanagh was listed as a director of companies registered to Dotcom's mansion, north of Auckland.

He said he handled Dotcom's personal business affairs in New Zealand before resigning in April.

Another director was Wayne Tempero, a bodyguard who spent a decade protecting sailors Brad Butterworth and Russell Coutts.

Former Auckland mayor John Banks was among others to extend a welcoming hand to Dotcom.

He met the businessman when he was Auckland mayor to ask for help putting on a fireworks display in the city's harbour. Banks later attended a New Year's Eve party thrown by Dotcom at the city centre apartment of now bankrupt property developer David Henderson.

He said it provided a great view of $500,000 worth of fireworks bought by Dotcom and detonated over the Waitemata Harbour.

Banks said he offered advice to the millionaire on how to apply for Overseas Investment Commission permission to buy the Coatesville mansion Dotcom had rented since coming to New Zealand.

The 24ha estate was built by Richard and Ruth Bradley, founders of the Chrisco empire.

They moved to Sydney in 2008 and put the mansion and grounds up for sale.

It was advertised with Sotheby's International Realty in Britain for $20 million two years ago.

The Overseas Investment Commission confirmed it had received an application to buy the property.

Dotcom - who was cruising the Mediterranean on a private yacht with his family - said his residency application was made under the "highest investor category", with $10 million placed in government bonds.

Dotcom said he first visited New Zealand three years ago and "loved it".

"We have three young children ... and we want them to grow up in a safe and healthy environment far away from the troubles of the world."

Dotcom said as a "former hacker", he had an analytical mind and had formed a view on the direction of the world.

"I am not optimistic about the long term and believe we will see an increase of international conflicts and pollution with a growing population and drastic reduction in resources.

"New Zealanders might not yet understand how fortunate they are, but when the time comes New Zealand will be one of the most desired countries to live in and its wealth could reach unexpected highs."

He said the nation was potentially self-sustainable, did not need nuclear power and was distant from international conflicts.

It could become "a rare paradise on earth".

Dotcom said his family spent most of their time in Hong Kong and the mansion in New Zealand was a "holiday home".

"But when the time is right we are planning to reside in New Zealand permanently. It is my goal to invest in business and land in New Zealand and contribute to the New Zealand success story."

Dotcom said his main line of business was the creation and development of an automated stock trading system called Trandax.

He had other technology-related investments, including online file-transfer service Megaupload.com.

He had also invented and owned a number of technology patents.

His past includes convictions that he doesn't want to reveal, though he told Immigration NZ as part of his residency application.

He said he had revealed the details even though they had been "erased" from his record under Germany's clean slate legislation.

Officials said his background was weighed against his potential benefit to New Zealand and they exercised their discretion in his favour.

"I have paid the price for my mistakes, learned my lessons and that's all that I have to say about this," said Dotcom.

"I have earned the right to live in today and the future, not in the past.

"Today I am a successful businessman.

"I am not disclosing how wealthy I am and it doesn't matter.

"Let's just say I have my place in the top 10 of New Zealand."

He said he had a passion for "cars, jets, yachts and toys" and "the good life in general".

"I try to make the best of my time and enjoy my life with my family and friends. But I am also always interested in improving the lives of people who are less fortunate.

"It is a great passion of both my wife and I to be involved in charities and to help others."

Dotcom said he wanted to buy some of the "most exclusive properties" in New Zealand and create a network of high-end rentals for "VIP travellers".

He also wanted to create a 20km motorsport racetrack attached to a five-star resort.

"Whatever I am doing in New Zealand is certainly going to create a good number of jobs and benefit New Zealand.

"I might be one of the most flamboyant characters New Zealand has ever seen but my intentions are good and I would like to see New Zealand flourish to its fullest potential."

- Herald on Sunday

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